Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Obi-Wan Is Just Kilgrave--Is That What We Want From The Light Side Of The Force?

Thanks to the Jessica Jones TV series, we all know about Zebadiah Killgrave, The Purple Man.

In the comic book version, after an accidental shower in some experimental nerve gas, Killgrave could influence virtually anyone to obey his will. Not just turn them into some kind of robots--he actually makes them think that they're doing what they want to, completely replacing their will with his.

Let's watch his first appearance, in Daredevil #4 (1964):

Once he's away, his victims realize that they've, well, somehow really not been themselves.

 And when cornered by a crowd on the streets who had seen the news alerts, Killgrave deftly pulls a "this isn't the Purple Man you're looking for":

Of course, Killgrave went on to do far viler--far, far viler--things with his ability to absolutely control everyone, both in comics and on streaming-service based television shows.

That all seems awfully familiar, somehow...

There's someone else we know with powers like that...

It has always bothered me, even back in the 1970s, that overriding the minds of others is in the repertoire of a Jedi Knight, who allegedly shuns the Dark Side of the Force.

Obi-Wan's language tries to make it seem less menacing. "The Force can have a strong influence of the weak-minded"??? But come on now, you're not influencing them--you're making the do the exact opposite of what they wanted to do!! That's not influence, that's control!

And that "weak-minded" business? What, is it based on IQ, or will power, or what? And again, that seems to be a particularly un-Jedi like attitude: "We can totally push around dumb people!!" Isn't that the kind of people you'd think a hero would protect, not exploit?

Of course, there are plenty of rationalizations to try and explain why the Jedi are so much better than Killgrave. "It's for an important cause!" Well, that's sort of an end-justifying-the-means argument, right? And, as we sadly know, that's been the justification for many barbaric acts.

"Jedi only use that on bad guys!" Well, Qui-Gon tried to use the "Jedi mind trick" on Watto, who was irritating, but hardly a villain. So that's just incorrect on its face. And shouldn't bad guys have a right not to have their minds violated--or our civil rights not one of the things that Jedi believe in?

And let's not forget the reprisals that those "influenced" might face. We know how the Empire--and Vader in particular--punish failure. So what do you think might have happened to that stormtrooper who let the droids go right by him? Especially when his subordinates witnessed the whole thing! And when Luke "influenced"--or, to hell with that, forced Bib Fortuna to disobey direct orders from Jabba, how could he know the the Hutt wouldn't torture or kill his minion for such effrontery? Hell, even death stick guy might have experienced some serious problems with his bosses when he suddenly stops pushing their merchandise. Surely, the "harmless" Jedi mind trick has left a swath of unnoticed damage in its wake over the millennia.

And I find it interesting that, in the movies, you never see the Sith using the "violate someone's mind for your own convenience" super-power, even though seems to be, well, pretty evil. [If you want to argue that Palpatine was silently using it, especially as he tried to subvert Anakin and Luke, I'll give you a cookie for creativity...but it's really not there on screen.]

Maybe this is me just being "a hysterical SJW," as a comment on another site said about my droids/slavery piece. Heaven forbid I think about fiction. (Which makes me grateful for the commenters I do get here.) But I really do feel queasy that the power to violate someone's mind, to wipe away someone's very self, is a tool employed so casually by our heroes. Since Jedi are supposedly battling for freedom and democracy, using a tool that eliminates personal freedom seems at least counter-intuitive, if not counter-productive. And saying, "Sure, we use the same tool a villain would, but we only use it for good" isn't terribly reassuring to me, when I'm wondering if the tool itself is evil, and possibly corrupting.

And ask yourself this, if you disagree with what I'm saying here: if I then used my mind-powers to change your opinion, and make you agree with this post, why wouldn't that be wrong?

[And no, I don't care about any EU explanations. That's just post hoc rationalization, and I'm concerned here with the moral universe the movies create. If I have to read something else to properly understand the movies, that's the movies' failings, not mine.]


Nate Winchester said...

TO BE FAIR: there is a line in one EU book where Luke is about to use the mind trick and he outright thinks that it is "too close to the dark side" for his comfort.

Otherwise, you are pretty spot on and the mind thing is so bad, that the EU (and to some extent, the PT) then had to go and retcon in the emperor using that ability on entire legions of soldiers just to keep the good guys "good." If you were to ask me what is THE greatest possible crime, it would be Kilgrave's complete corruption of people's wills.

Maybe this is me just being "a hysterical SJW," as a comment on another site said about my droids/slavery piece.

WTF? I will stand second to no one on my dislike of SJWs and I still can't see how questioning the status of robots (a VERY OLD sci-fi staple) makes you one. (maybe other things might, but not that) Heh, now I want to see an update of Data's trial where Picard shows footage from star wars and says, "Behold the future of us creating disposable people!"

Oh! Also when it comes to droids? ANOTHER effort the EU made to paper it over? Basically a droid when it is first switched on memory wiped is little more than an automated toaster. A droid that has been running for a significantly long time appears to develop sapience and personhood. (though they then shot themselves in the foot by saying most people schedule regular memory wipes of their droids to prevent this from happening - yeah, ponder the implications of THAT)

Swellsman said...

One of the things that I thought Jessica Jones explored very well was just how having Kilgrave's power would almost certainly lead nearly anyone to be, well, Kilgrave.

Imagine you are a child, and you can make people do whatever you want. Imagine that your parents flee from you, and leave you to make your own way in the world. Of course you would use your power to survive and, having grown up using it, of course you would come to see other people as nothing but pawns to be manipulated.

Even Jessica, in the scene with her old neighbor, gets a glimpse of just how seductive having that power would be. Now, to be sure, Jessica Jones did a very, very good job of never using this point of view to justify Kilgrave; he remains utterly a monster throughout the series. But it is still to understand why he became a monster, and how little real opportunity he had to escape that fate, without actually sympathizing with him. I thought the show handled his character superbly well, trusting the audience to think about Kilgrave with nuance, but without ever actually calling into question that what he was doing was still purely evil.

Star Wars, while it can be a thrilling, emotionally satisfying ride, never displayed that kind of sophistication in its storytelling; given its simplistic storytelling, you are quite right to worry over the ethics of the Jedi.

Dan said...

I'd bet anything that SJW comment was made by a person very unhappy with their own life. To unhappy, certainly, to think about anything else.